Blind obedience rightly plays no part in our defence force - nor should it in discussion of defence or wider public policy issues

Arguments about politics that inappropriately use analogies to supposed "blind obedience" in the ADF are more than just disappointing. Such examples again point to the profound and continually damaging dearth of real knowledge and understanding about our defence force, and national defence issues generally, across the community; even among those, such as journalists and academics, commonly expected to research such topics before commenting. Just as importantly, ill-researched commentary is not just a national security issue as such uninformed and invalid analogies also hinder effective debate on the wider public-policy issues in which they are misused.


Letter to The Canberra Times
Tuesday, 17 March 2015
(published Friday, 20 March 2015)

Jenna Price (“Government whip Andrew Nikolic lashes out at academic freedom”, March 17) criticises the new Liberal Party Whip, and approvingly quotes her university’s definition of academic responsibility as making a “… significant contribution to society by drawing on their considerable knowledge and discipline expertise to support public discussion based on evidence, and on reasoned arguments”.

Jenna Price, however, oddly ascribes Nikolic’s approach to party discipline as being the result of his military training “… where its blind obedience. So you can imagine, can’t you, the kind of behaviour he [Nikolic] thinks is appropriate”.   

Now anyone, academic or not, with due considerable knowledge of military training would surely know that ADF personnel instead obey orders because — having been required to think about it considerably throughout their training — they realise that the complex, high-stress and often lethal activities we ask of our defence force rely utterly on combining mutual trust and individual initiative to achieve the necessary coherent teamwork.  

Whatever Nikolic may or may not believe, Jenna Price has clearly used only imagination and certainly no evidence, reasoned argument, knowledge or academic expertise to draw her subjective conclusions.

These cascading failures to live up to her own professed academic standards surely also constitute an even more inappropriate example of partisan polemic in public discussion than the one she alleges in another.   


Back to Letters: 2015